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NHVH kicks off Veterans Day observances with early ceremony

Okie Howe, a WWII veteran and resident of New Hampshire Veterans Home read the proclamation from Gov. John Lynch to declare Nov. 11 as the official observance of the 92nd Veteranís Day in the state. Howe is a former resident of Sanbornton. Seated beside her is NHVH Sergeant-At-Arms Raymond Plummer who earlier lead the crowded room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
November 10, 2010
TILTON — The residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home were joined in their Town Hall meeting room by an overflow crowd of family members, fellow veterans and dignitaries from around the state as they began a week of celebrations in their honor on Monday morning.

While the official Veterans Day is Nov. 11, NHVH Program Information Officer Jackie Bonafide said many of the veterans at the facility have other plans to attend services at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery or to speak with school groups around the region, so NHVH decided to hold its annual ceremony Monday.

After greetings from Commandant Barry Conway, NHVH Sergeant-At-Arms Raymond Plummer led the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. The ceremony then began with music provided by students from Lakes Region Christian Academy. Math teacher Peter Howard, whose father is a veteran residing at NHVH, said he received a notice about the ceremony and called right away to see if the students could join in by honoring the veterans in song.

"It's a special privilege for us to come here and share the National Anthem with you," Howard said.

The group, lead by Maranatha Sweet, sang all four verses of the Star Spangled Banner as veterans stood and saluted the flag, many singing along with the students as well. They later led the crowd in singing "God Bless America" as they waved U.S. flags.

Eighth grade student Riley Campbell of Winnisquam Middle School delivered the Veterans Day Message, telling the audience of his grandfather and his three brothers who all served during WWII. Campbell learned through his grandfather that it is not just the soldiers but also their families who make sacrifices as they serve their country. Veterans Day, he said, is a day to honor all soldiers, past, present and future, for all they do.

"So many take our freedom for granted. We forget the sacrifices they made for us," he said.

He closed by saying that it is not enough to just say thank you. People need to show how much those sacrifices mean by honoring the wonderful job they have done in protecting the country.

Campbell also told the audience he and a friend spend a lot of time drawing machines and hope one day to design actual military planes and machinery that will help keep those who serve our country safe.

Commander Peter Burdett, a 21-year Navy veteran and chairman of the New Hampshire State Veteran's Advisory Committee, gave the Veterans Day Address. He spoke of his time at sea working along with the Marine Corps. In the end, teamwork, he said, is what gets things done.

"When we are in a branch of the military, we are part of a team. When we retire we're really just one service after all," Burdett said.

He also commended a branch of Easter Seals known as the Veterans Count Club, which provides support to families before and during deployment of a soldier as well as during the transition period when they return home. There is often a gap in government support once a soldier is deployed, Burdett said, and Veterans Count Club helps to fill that gap.

"We want to make sure our servicemen and women and their families get the help they need as we are experiencing one of the largest deployments of National Guard forces from New Hampshire since World War II," said Burdett.

NHSVAC is heavily involved in veteran affairs and works closely with both the state House and Senate. Burdett said he felt his committee had a lot of influence in making sure veterans are cared for in New Hampshire.

Kent Nolan of Sen. Judd Gregg's office read a letter from the senator thanking not only the veterans but also those who care for them in facilities such as NHVH.

"We as a nation have a responsibility to thank those who chose service over self," Nolan read.

Resident Okie Howe was given the honor of reading the proclamation from Gov. John Lynch, declaring Nov. 11 as the official Veterans Day observance in New Hampshire.

"We all owe a tremendous debt to those who served and those who continue to serve," she read.

Lynch called for residents and businesses in the state to show unity in displaying the American flag in that day. Chaplain William Paige, a retired member of the N.H. National, closed the ceremony with the invocation.

Varney Smith
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